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Sadly the best sets came early and after a few more hours surfing with friendly village kids who are bodyboarding on planks and having taken a tour of the village the offer of a 'boombastic party' in our honour is refused in favour of heading north to a secret pass. This wave was discovered on a previous trip and hidden up our guide's sleeve until the planning of this trip. This whole trip we will be heading north, the pinnacle of the trip being the exposed break of Serenade, still 25 hours sailing away. The people of Maluku are notionally either Christian or Muslim but seem to believe God is DJ and without exception every village we passed had a remarkably large sound system as if they expected 1000 gurning pill heads to drop by at any moment.© 2014 Ben P
We arrive at our next wave, this one we knew a little about, Paniki Point, and discover a remarkable cascade roaring 100s of feet out of the jungle canopy straight into a lagoon carved from the soft limestone, the bottom lined in a soft spongy carpet of neon coral complete with a resident pod of dolphins playing in the bay. The wave itself, the point, is not a normal wave at all, it's an essay in refraction, a 200m right squeezed between two islands which turns a 90 degree kink halfway down and continues to wrap around the island. Situated adjacent to this stunning waterfall it's not something you see every day. If David Attenborough came roaring out of the trees astride a brontosaurus you wouldn't bat an eyelid in this primeval landscape.© 2014 Right, Ollie LP. Below, Dan Haylock
After a day and a bit surfing small waves at the pass we steam towards an island many hours north, a Google Maps find. An outer atoll sitting just off the main island offering protection to a small town. We were to find this a lot, new waves are often situated in front of habitation. The necessity of a reef to protect the village from storms but also allowing access via a pass or kink form the basic building blocks of your typical reef break. Refraction and then an escape route. Sadly Ditty Island whilst picturesque and offering a passable representation of Dr Evil's lair or that of a Bond villain with two rock turrets supporting a central beach encased in flawless reef only a foot of right and left perfection peeled down each flank. Some wanted to stay and fish, others forever, but the inquisitive Sama Sama pushed on. The next wave, also known, was Sidewalk. The crew as ever pack the deck on approach to a wave. It's getting late and you surf now or wait till tomorrow. Oohs turn to ahhs as from an easy takeoff the wave turns its guts out on an exposed reef. The outside peak looks ok before turning into a turquoise and white closeout. A wave not of mellow SoCal rights but instant death. Time to change the description in the book. Yep who'd surfed it before just shrugged as is his way, must be the swell direction he says. This is also a recurring issue, waves deemed unsurfable cannot be allowed a change of tide, wind or direction, we don't have the time to wait days at each possibility. In the onshore breeze we turn injury down in favour of using the remaining light to scope out a safe harbour. Conversation turns to tomorrow, a building swell and northerly winds.© 2014 Ed Temperley
The following morning we scout the western side of an island, the NW swell isn't hitting it properly and numerous perfect setups are passed by mournfully as distant reeling coconut fringed glass points turn out to be fool's gold. Enthusiasm rises to fever pitch as we approach the island's northern tip, there breaks a right, a round eye which we are eyeball to eyeball with until we break off the staring competition with the realisation it was an illusion and there rolls in crushing disappointment, we haven't surfed known or unknown for 24 hours and the atmosphere of 8 denied frothers compounds matters. What about the eastern flank? Nothing says captain Joachim. We retire to bunks and shade, not much is said, not much to say.© 2014 Dan Haylock
Rather than head over to the chain's most northerly island, Morotai, we do seem to be heading south down eastern flank of Roa. Captain Joachim has seen something interesting. He does after all have bigger binoculars than everyone else but even so we were amazed to round a round, dry and sectiony left and be presented with a regularly rolling section of whitewater. Closer inspection revealed a long left and a sucky right, the village is a Christian cluster of shacks and it is high tide. We surfed it until the late afternoon, as the tide dropped it became a definite left only and we were joined by village kids who were surfing on crude convex planks with a slight nose roughly hewn by axe. They didn't have a name for the wave so we called it Nachos after the shape of the reef and Captain Joachim's girlfriend who'd just opened Bali's first nacho factory.© 2014 Dan Haylock
We head around the corner for a safer anchorage and bingo stumble upon new wave number two for the day, a shallow right-hander over a table flat reef with a decent potential. Over the traditional evening feast whipped up by Wayan, chef and stove acrobat in the pitching sea we argue about the final break's names. Finally agreeing to call it Louise's because it's Bruce's better half's birthday and he texts her on the sat phone. The following day Bruce realises he sent the message two days early...© 2014 Ben Pascoe
The following morning we find another right on the SW flank of Morotai, before creeping gingerly into the lee of a beach-lined point further north. From the back it's a foot and from the front not much better. Optimism remains high, we'll be at Serenade our most northern point come the afternoon and on the way we spot several 'almosts' but we're so close to the mother lode pausing seems to not fit the agenda. Ben P is repeating a mantra of if it spits then not giving it a go is rude which he apparently learnt from a friend.© 2014 Dan Haylock
No trumpets blow when we hit Serenade the pinacle of our trip, it's just another stretch of thick green forested shore, but no village this time, just a sliver of black sand comforting the impenetrable forest beyond. A wave arrives, stands-up and throws, a second section follows on and the mind drifts to comparisons. This is a bit like Tahiti or Samoa, grey barrels refracting and gliding around a shallow horseshoe reef. This wave is nothing short of a revelation, the first unsurfable section starts off as a perfect Chopes like tube that pinches shut every time, encouraging the mind and creating a perfect entry ramp to slide into the wave from deep behind the main peak. The deeper you sit the easier it is. This wave rewards commitment whilst swatting anyone sitting too far inside with wider sets which swing around and drive you in and across the reef and rock garden.© 2014 Ben P
Up until this point we'd surfed friendly waves, lineups several notches less hollow and grunty than their Indian Ocean cousins to the south of Indonesia. Serenade however doesn't need much swell to pack a punch and was a welcome relief for those in the crew more used to a little oomph.© 2014 Ed Temperley
After the sometimes unmakable first section Serenade would lineup into 60-80 metres of wall and barrel sections.© 2014 Dan Haylock
It was about an hour and half walk from here to the nearest village and this was the only spot at which we met a couple of feral surfers who made that walk every morning.© 2014 Dan Haylock
Every day started to drop into a pattern, wake up surf the right, head off to Serenade and surf our guts out before heading off to explore the surrounding reefs and islands. This was another Google Maps bust; since the satellite had passed over and the photos spread on the internet they'd gone and parked a ship on the peak.© 2014 Ben Pascoe
Bruce dropping his wallet on the inside at Serenade© 2014 Ed Temperley
White water on the horizon would bring everyone rushing forward.© 2014 Ben Pascoe
Only to find that someone had got there first. There's an undoubted arrogance at attempting to claim a discovery in a populated place, rather a new spot is a known landscape viewed through the prism of a new paradigm.© 2014 Dan Haylock
Boat living with good friends and fun waves may not be as true to the feral surfer experience as sleeping in malaria ridden swamps and eating only rice. It's definitely lazier and probably in some ways less rewarding but to us old folk yoked to family and responsibilities it's our kind of adventure.© 2014 Dan Haylock
The islands here are frequented by traveling yachtsmen and when a kid gets in a tree and puts a bucket on his head you wonder if it's the first time he's been photographed.© 2014 Ed Temperley
What was amazing was the progressively more sophisticated board design of the local surfers the further north we travelled. Starting off down south with just planks of wood with a precariously placed nail to hang on to, as we headed up towards more regularly surfed areas they developed increasingly sophisticated round noses and rocker.© 2014 Ollie LP
Serenade would always draw us back and was one of those magic spots which did so much with the limited swell on offer. Getting a forecast out here is an issue. Bored of text messages not arriving I take action and ring a drunk msw employee at midnight and spend $15 of the $50 satellite phone credit to discover the swell will be dropping for the rest of the trip. It doesn't make me very popular.© 2014 Ed Temperley
At this size there was plenty of fun to be had and the daily minmum surfing requirement was at least 5 hours and more than 20 waves. Bruce tried to double that most days.© 2014 Dan Haylock
Even on the tiny swell Serenade offers up head high glassy walls to say goodbye and more sponger shacks than Pascoe can cope with. We surf until sunset and captain draws up the anchor threatening to leave us out there if we don't get a wriggle on.© 2014 Ed Temperley
Oliver Nermerich went to the Algarve for a blogger event and stayed to make a surf movie.
A pin sharp glance through the Hurley Pro as we (roughly) approach the mid point.
It may be too late for the ASP Big Wave World Tour, but Dungeons lit up.
Conor Maguire harks towards a time when the cold and dark wraps back in and the lows deepen, spinning thick ropes of swell towards Ireland.
Italy has waves and Sardinia has some of the best spots, places you would not believe. Leonardo Fioravanti knows that better than most...